Balancing act a smash: Group jells, powering rout
MILWAUKEE It’s quite a challenge that has been laid at the feet of the Milwaukee Bucks, losing three of their top players to injury and all.
But it’s also pretty impressive the way those left in uniform have responded so far.
Coming on the heels of an overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, the Bucks used a four-pronged offensive attack and a stubborn defense to rout the Houston Rockets, 124-112, Monday night at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks, who scored 14 straight points to take a 22-point lead late in the third quarter, have so far taken on the challenge that has been presented to them.
“That’s exactly what it is, a challenge,” said forward Charlie Villanueva, one of four players who scored at least 20 points for Milwaukee. “It’s a challenge that has been put in front of us. I heard Coach say, ’It’s the same script, just different actors.’ It’s so true. But we’re going to have to answer the call. We’re all professionals, NBA players. The opportunity is there, now go and get it.
”The Detroit game we should have won. It just shows if we play together as a team and move the basketball, and play well on the defensive end, we can win any ball game. This was a big win for us.“
Said Ramon Sessions, ”A lot of people on the outside thought that we were going to throw it in but we’ve got professional guys here and we’re going to bring it every night. At the end of the day, just be content with what we’ve got (for personnel).“
Sessions made eight of 12 shots and 10 of 12 free throws to lead the Bucks with 26 points. Villanueva and forward Richard Jefferson added 25 points each and Charlie Bell scored 21. Villanueva scored 12 points in the third quarter, when the Bucks blew the game open, and Bell scored 15 points in the second quarter to help Milwaukee take a 64-58 halftime lead. The Bucks passed for 31 assists -- seven by Sessions -- and committed only eight turnovers.
The Bucks limited Houston to 38.2% shooting through three quarters and 42.5% for the game. Center Yao Ming scored seven points on 2-of-8 shooting, and Tracy McGrady scored three points on 1-of-9 shooting.
”Early in the game, our guys were noticeably trying to set a tone that we had shaken off the (Detroit) game from the other night and we were here to do something defensively,“ coach Scott Skiles said. ‘’Pretty much all year, when we’ve done that, we’ve played good games. We haven’t won them all, but we’ve played good games.“
Said Jefferson, ”We were disappointed with our inability to pull out the (Detroit) game and we wanted to come out and answer for it.“
The Bucks blew the game open midway through the third quarter.
Milwaukee led by eight but Villanueva made two free throws, and Jefferson and Villanueva both sank short jumpers. Sessions turned a steal into a fast-break layup and Villanueva drilled a pair of three-pointers to cap the 14-0 outburst and give the Bucks an 87-65 lead with 4 minutes 11 seconds left in the third quarter. The Bucks led by 25 late in the third and took a 98-76 lead into the fourth. Houston coach Rick Adelman played reserves in the final quarter.
”It’s an opportunity for everybody to step up,“ Bell said. ”It’s one of those things where when we’re sitting there playing 10 or 15 minutes and it’s, ’If I had more minutes, this is what I would do.’ Now we have a chance to do that.
“I never question if we can score. We’ve got a lot of scorers. The thing was, what are we going to do on the defensive end? We’re still playing hard defensively. Our defensive principles are there. We’re doing a good job.”